As a historian, sociologist, political
activist, editor, novelist, and poet, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, W.E.B.
Du Bois for short, is regarded as the other “father” of the Harlem Renaissance.
Some may even say that if Langston Hughes captured the heart of the “New
Negro,” then Du Bois certainly captured the mind. Du Bois was born in Great
Barrington, Massachusetts to Mary Silvina Burghardt, a domestic worker, and
Alfred Du Bois, a barber and itinerant laborer. Du Bois received a classical,
college preparatory education in Great Barrington’s racially integrated high
school, from which, in June 1884, he became the first African-American
graduate. He contributed numerous articles to two reginal newspapers, the
Springfield Republican and the
black-owned New York Globe, then
edited by T. Thomas Fortune. Du Bois later enrolled in Fisk University, where
he came under the mentorship of principal Frank Hosmer. Hosmer encouraged his wide-ranging
reading and solicited scholarships for him. Fisk University offered a
continuation of his classical education and strong influences of teachers who
were heir to abolitionism. This also offered Du Bois an introduction to
southern American racism and African-American culture. This was highly visible
in his later writings.
Du Bois would go on to study at schools
such as Harvard, where he received a B.A. cum laude, an M.A and a Ph. D. and
between 1892 and 1894 travel to Germany where he studied at Friedrich-Wilhelm
III. In 1896, Du Bois was invited by the University of Pennsylvania to conduct
to study of the seventh ward in Philadelphia. After an estimated 835 hours of
door-to-door interviews in 2,5000 households, Du Bois completed the monumental
study, The Philadelphia Negro in
1899. This work reflected the two main elements of his intellectual engagement:
the scientific study of the so-called Negro Problem and the appropriate
political responses to it. Du Bois also acknowledged for the U.S. Bureau of
Labor the first of several studies of southern African-American households,
which was published as a bureau bulletin the following year under the title The Negroes of Farmville, Virginia: A Social
Study. Atlantic Monthly published an
essay entitled, “The Strivings of the Negro People,” which was a slightly
revised version of which later opened The
Souls of Black Folk (1903). These works framed Du Bois’s evolving
conceptualization of, organizational approach to, and political values and
obligations regarding the problem of race in America.
In 1910 Du Bois joined the NAACP as an
officer, as its only black board member, to edit its monthly magazine, the Crisis. The NAACP, better known as the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People, founded in 1909 and focused on things like
lynching, economic justice, civil rights, education, women’s suffrage. As the editor, Du Bois finally established
the journal of opinion that could serve as a platform that could reach a larger
audience of African Americans. In these series of issues, Du Bois rallied black
support for NAACP policies and programs and denounced white opposition to equal
rights. Thus, the journal established, simultaneously, a forum for multiple
expressions of and a well-defined representation and demonstration of black
intellectual and cultural life.
With his vantage as an NAACP officer, Du
Bois also furthered another compelling intellectual and political interest,
known as Pan-Africanism. He attended conferences that focused, in some way
shape or form, on the fate of African colonies in the postwar world, however
the political agendas of the earliest meetings were often compromised by the
ideological and political muddles of the representatives chosen to represent
the African colonies, i.e. Jamaican black nationalist Marcus Garvey.
World War I had a vast effect on Du Bois.
During the war, he wrote “Close Ranks,” a controversial editorial in the Crisis (July 1918), where he urged African
Americans to set aside their grievances momentarily and concentrate their
energies on the war efforts. Together, Du Bois and the NAACP fought for officer
training and equal treatment for black troops, led a silent protest arch down
Fifth Avenue in 1917 against racism, and in 1919 launched an investigation into
charges of discrimination against black troops in Europe. Needless to say, this
was during the era where Blacks in America were finding a new voice, the
emergence of the New-Negro.
Meanwhile, the harsh reality of the war
itself stimulated changes in Du Bois’s evolving analyses of racial issues and
phenomena. His piece, entitled Darkwater:
Voices with the Veil reflects many of those themes. Du Bois and the NAACP would eventually part
ways after growing opposition between him and fellow colleagues, especially
executive director Walter White. Du Bois contribution to the Harlem Renaissance
was that of a deeper intellectual look in that of the African-America. It fueled
the way people viewed blacks in a time of racial tension and the proper
approach to the racial conflicts that were taking place.
Black nationalist, Marcus Moziah Garvey was
born on August 17,1887 in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, was the son of stonemason. He
attended a local elementary school and read regularly on his own. However,
difficult family finances forced him into employment at an early age as a
printer’s apprentice. Three years later Garvey would move to Kingston where he
found work as a printer and became involved in local union activities. In 1907
Garvey took part in what would be an unsuccessful printers’ strike. However,
these early experiences groomed his journalistic skills and raised his
consciousness about the depressing conditions of the black working class in his
native land. Garvey did a few brief stints on short-lived radical newspapers in
Panama. In 1912, he moved to London, England to continue to work as printer. The
following years would prove to be crucial to Garvey way of thinking. While
studying at the University of London’s Birkbeck College. While there Garvey
took on the Booker T. Washington’s philosophy of black self-advancement in his
autobiographical Up from Slavery. Garvey
also got to meet Sudanese-Egyption who was working for African self-rile and
Egyptian independence, Duse Mohammed Ali. Duse Mohammed published a small
magazine, Africa Time and Orient Review where
he allowed Garvey to write and also introduced him to other Africans. By the
time Garvey left London, he was convinced that black worldwide would have to
fend for themselves if they were ever combat white racism and free the African
continent from European colonial rule.
In 1912, Garvey founded the Universal Negro
Improvement and Conservation Association and African Communities League, also
known as UNIA. It would also be the vehicle for Garvey’s efforts at racial
advancement the remainder of his life.
He initially started a trade school in Jamaica, however, things did not
go as planned. So in 1916, Garvey took his organization and cause to the center
of black revolution in Harlem, New York.
Over a period of time Garvey’s movement
gained strength in power and both numbers. It’s slogan “One Aim, One God, One
Destiny” drew attention, especially to Blacks that had served abroad and were
unhappy to come back to an America still saturated in racism. Harlem was
literally a goldmine for Garvey’s headquarters A pan-African movement was
already under way, emphasizing the liberation of the African continent and
black racial pride worldwide. Garvey used this along as with his weekly
newspaper the Negro World as his
mouthpiece, to his advantage.
By the early 1920s the UNIA anywhere
between two to six million members; accurate number is hard to obtain due to
poor record keeping. Meanwhile, the Negro
World had a circulation of some 50,000. Garvey had already been in talks
with the government of Liberia for a back-to-Africa colonization movement for
American Blacks. This would prove to be difficult. Garvey’s business
enterprises were his proudest achievements, however, the source of his undoing.
The biggest of Garvey’s enterprises was the Black Star Line, a steamship
company that was set to carry passengers and trade among Africa, the Caribbean
and the United States. This project would prove to yet another tragic loss for
Garvey. Between dishonest and possibly criminal practice and three aging and
overpriced vessels, The Black Star Line would go nowhere.
Garvey’s critics begun to question his
ethics, including Du Bois, whose goal countered with that of Garvey’s black
self-segregation. Things got even worse when Garvey openly associated with KKK
members, thousands of Blacks were outraged.
legacy that I side with the most would have to be that of W.E.B Du Bois.
Personally, I consider myself more an intellectual. I prefer the mind and how
works; how else are you supposed to understand people, let alone a whole race.
Quite frankly, Garvey’s methods would never bring about peace in the world.
Garvey was just running away from the racial problems being faced around the
world. It is ultimately impossible to fix a problem if you are going to
self-segregate yourself. You are essentially doing the same thing you are
accusing your oppressor of. Overall, I feel like Du Bois legacy does more for
the culture in a sense that we look at the real problems that Blacks faced; the
who, what, where of our racial problems and the response to it whether they
worked or not. Again, Garvey’s plan was just to run away from all of that and
start somewhere new. If Europeans took land from us before, regardless if we
all moved to a country together, do not you think the same thing would happen. Plus,
Garvey’s work ethics were flawed and unorganized.